Back to the Land in Silicon Valley

Marlene Anne Bumgarner

“We all worked together. Ate together. Sang together. Learned together. We had a good life. After living close to the natural cycles of the earth year after year, good and not good, we grew stronger and more resilient, learned to manage our occasional conflicts with tolerance and love.”

When Marlene Bumgarner and her husband moved to a rural plot of land in 1973, she thought of herself as simply a young mother seeking an affordable and safe place in which to raise her child.

By the time she left the land nearly a decade later, she had written two books and a weekly newspaper column, served as contributing editor to a national magazine, a college instructor, and a sought-after public speaker. Her natural food store, The Morgan Hill Trading Post, was the first one in her community.

Follow Marlene and her friends as they live on the land, coping with the challenges of rural life as Silicon Valley evolves into the high-tech center it is today, and the world in which they live transforms itself culturally, economically, and politically.

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About The Author

Marlene Anne Bumgarner

Marlene Anne Bumgarner

Marlene Anne Bumgarner was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, England. Following World War II she and her parents sailed to New York, then lived on a family-owned poultry farm in Zephyrhills, Florida and in a rural community in Victoria, Australia, before settling permanently in California.

Marlene put herself through college working as a technical writer, then felt the draw of the land. In 1973, she moved to a piece of rural property with her husband and daughter. Following a decade teaching elementary and preschool children, Marlene taught Child and Adolescent Development for 30 years at a community college. Her first book, The Book of Whole Grains, grew out of a cultural history curriculum she developed for fourth grade. Organic Cooking for (not-so-organic) Mothers was inspired by letters written to her by readers of the "Naturally Speaking" newspaper column she wrote for the San Jose Mercury News. Working with School Age Children was written for the thousands of young people working in before- and after-school programs around the country, and is used as a textbook in many colleges and universities.

In 2001, Marlene was awarded the Educator of the Year award by the Chamber of Commerce of Morgan Hill, California. Since retiring from full time teaching, she volunteers in the Young Writers Program at local schools, and writes a monthly blog addressing topics of interest to parents and grandparents.

Find out more about Marlene’s family life, cooking, and gardening at

4 reviews for Back to the Land in Silicon Valley

  1. Don Burgett

    “Marlene Bumgarner shares a powerful memoir of young lives bridging the quiet abundance of the Valley of Heart’s Delight and the world-changing potential of the nascent Silicon Valley at a unique moment when the two coexisted. This is an intimate story of a teacher, writer, entrepreneur, wife, and loving mother finding her footing on a special piece of land and the resilience to navigate the seismic shifts of the time and her life. Her reflections on homesteading, education, family, community, and the visionaries who saw the future in computing will make this a rewarding journey for a wide array of readers.”

    Don Burgett, Co-Executive Director of Life Lab

  2. Tara Besore

    “This book is Little House on the Prairie for grown-ups, offering an adult perspective on the ever-complicated pursuit of the simple life. Bumgarner recounts the good times, like the satisfaction of building a sustainable farm and garden, as well as the hard times, like the uphill battles to meet code and the inevitable losses on a homestead. She exchanges the idealism of youth for the wisdom of experience earned through seasons of self-reliance spent on the land.”

    Tara Besore, Hammer & a Headband

  3. Nancy Wood

    “With humor, insight, and love, Marlene Bumgarner captures the essence of the 70s “back to the land” movement. She dreams of paradise when she, her husband, and their toddler join with another couple to purchase 10 acres in the rolling hills of coastal California. Despite heartbreak, disappointments, and a life-changing accident, uplifting joy and a deep connection to the land anchor her life. An enthralling memoir.”

    Nancy Wood, author of the Shelby McDougall mystery series

  4. Cristina McCutcheon

    “Marlene Bumgarner’s path back to the land is set beside the path of technology at a time when silicon was just beginning its path to defining a region. It is an engaging story of dreams, challenges, and that uncomfortable place where ideals meet reality. She uses the characters and events in her life to paint a vivid picture of a mother seeking a peaceful country life, and finding much more than she ever imagined … including her own extraordinary resilience.”

    Cristina McCutcheon, Farmer/Garden Educator

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